Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 23, 2014 for “separatism.” Amnesty International believes him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of his beliefs.
Ilham Tohti has been commenting on the situation of Uighurs in China for many years. His “Uighur Online” (uighurbiz.net) website reported human rights violations suffered by not only Uighurs but also ethnic Han Chinese. The website was shut down by the authorities several times since 2008 and remains unavailable at this time. The authorities put Ilham Tohti under surveillance and interrogated him after he travelled to France in March 2009. During the trip he gave media interviews and criticized China’s policies on ethnic minorities.
Ilham Tohti was first taken away from his home in Beijing on January 15, 2014. His wife received the arrest warrant on February 25 telling her that he was being charged with “separatism”, a charge that has often been used against Uighurs who speak out against human rights violations.
Ilham Tohti, who is being held in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Prison Number 1 in Urumqi, maintains that he opposes violence and separatism and that he only highlighted concerns about social and political issues as a Uighur academic. His lawyers report that he has lost at least 16 kg due to a hunger strike because he was not provided with food compatible with his Islamic dietary requirements and because he has been denied food by prison staff. He has been shackled repeatedly and suffers from various pains in his abdomenal area and appeas to have a cataract. He has not been allowed a medical examination and was not receiving any treatment according to his lawyers. He has also reportedly been harassed and punched by other inmates.
Write letters to the Chinese authorities:
- Calling on the authorities to release Ilham Tohti immediately and unconditionally, as he has been imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression
- Calling on them to move Ilham Tohti to a prison in Beijing closer to his family
The State Council General Office
People’s Republic of China